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Passionate on demand

No matter how well the corporate communications job interview goes, best not to demonstrate this type of passion

More correspondence this week. See how good Talk Normal is when you join in?

I have just read a job application where someone writes that they are passionate about corporate communication… in the last few days, three young people in interviews have told me they are passionate about PR or technology. OFGS!

says our correspondent.

I think our chipper hooray-for-everything applicants are merely responding to their job market conditioning. If you doubt me, do a Google search for “Are you passionate about”. We understand that employers don’t necessarily want experience, it’s no secret that recruiters are a bitt iffy about people who sound like they might be black, but we’re apparently thrilled by candidates who lie about how passionate they are.

If you are selecting on passion you’re also probably going to disqualify the best applicants, because they are the ones who, when you ask if they are passionate about vegetables for example, will say “Of course not. I’m not mental”.

Yet we all know the requirement to pretend to be passionate on demand is part of the interview. If you’re recruiting at the moment maybe you could spice up your recruitment process by adding a short test with questions like “Do you find repetitive dull tasks thrilling?”, or “Is being treated like a child extraordinarily motivating for you?”, I bet you’d find a large proportion of people who would tick “yes”, simply because it’s an interview.

A quick scan of the job boards shows that that I could enhance my employability (let’s be honest, there’s quite a bit of headroom there) if I could bring myself to admit that, yes, I am passionate about change control (a business analyst), beer, tax, cake, and telesales. “IF YES THEN APPLY NOW!!!” the last advert says, hinting that it might be one of those telesales jobs where the ability to bully vulnerable people is the type of passion they’re looking for. But thanks to political correctness going mad you can’t put that in an advertisement any more.

I was surprised to find several advertisements asking if I was passionate about recruitment. You’d have thought that recruiters, of all people, would have realised the limitations of asking for fake passion; or maybe they just want to attract extremely insincere people. In the job you might have to simultaneously lie about the employer to the candidate, and the candidate to the employer. This is difficult for most people, but it’s probably more accurate to say that it requires a passion for commission than a passion for recruitment.

About.com even has a page of user-supplied answers for the interview question “What are you passionate about?”. I’d suggest that, if you need someone at About.com to tell you the answer to this question, your passion might be lacking an essential element; but then again, if recruiters are so bored that they have to ask you this question, it’s probably a crappy job anyway.

If I ever go to a telesales job interview I’m using this model answer from the article, as suggested by “Scar”:

I’m passionate about everything in the way most people are only passionate about their ‘pet’ subjects. This is both an advantage and a downfall at times: it means I give 110% to everything I do, whether it’s watching paint dry, stuffing envelopes, writing an article or running a company.

Please, please can someone let this guy run a company passionately for us, and tell us how it goes. He’s probably available: I looked up “Are you passionate about watching paint dry?” on the internet and, sad to report, it’s one of the few manifestations of passion on demand that recruiters aren’t seeking.

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My Katie Price boob job shame

You're meant to be looking at the books

Though Radio 4’s Thought for the Day is still out of bounds to those of us who don’t have a religion, the god-botherers at the BBC can’t censor Talknormalism’s Christmas Message to you:

As this is a time of year when we buy things we don’t need, it is the perfect time to tell the story of Katie Price’s decision to acquire larger breasts, my influence on her decision, and how those iconic breasts inspired Talk Normal.

Many years ago, Jordan (as she was then) was an up-and-coming young topless model, and I was asked to appear on the same TV programme as her. It was an after-the-pub Friday night show put out by Meridian TV, and my job was to explain how to log in to the internet to watch amateur webcams, empowering a generation of drunk men to scour chatrooms for an internet friend who might take her shirt off after hours of pleading. For some reason the researchers had called the editor of Guardian Online for advice on this noble pastime, and the Guardian (understandably not wanting to soil itself, but correctly assuming I’d do it for £60 cash plus train fare) suggested me.

Jordan had been booked to do some flirty links for the show while wearing tiny clothes. It’s a good job they didn’t get our scripts mixed up, though she could probably have done a decent job with mine.

Anyway, someone had broken something on the set, so we all sat in the green room for a few hours while men with hammers fixed it. There was a glum American stand up comedian and a guy who rode muddy motorbikes for a living. Jordan’s Gladiator boyfriend Ace was there to keep her company while we tucked in to the free booze and crisps backstage. Comedy, motorbikes, muscles, partial nudity, chardonnay and modems. That was the 1990s for you. Crazy, crazy days.

And so it came to pass that, after a few glasses, Jordan asked us all her opinion on whether she ought to have a boob job. At that time her breasts were what a certain type of web site calls natural, though it wasn’t the first adjective that popped into your head when you met her. She was thinking about it, she said, because a newspaper had offered to pay for her breast enhancement on the condition that they got an exclusive right to photograph the results. It seemed like a good offer to her. Ace stared furiously at the Doritos and said “I always tell Katie she’s got quite enough already”.

When it was my turn to speak, I planned to say, “What are you thinking? You’re hardly out of school! The tabloid press will turn you into a human freakshow! You already look like a pencil with two tennis balls sellotaped to it! Are you mad?”

Instead, when she pointed herself at me and said “what do you fink? Should I have them done?”, I looked at my feet and said, bravely:

Oh I dunno.

I don’t know who paid for her boobs in the end, but the next time I saw her in the newspapers she was a much bigger woman. Maybe, in reflective moments, when she contemplates the sadness of being made to eat bugs in the jungle by vengeful reality TV viewers, she thinks, “why didn’t that bald nerd I met all those years ago in Southampton warn me it would come to this?” I’m sorry, Katie.

It is this failure of nerve that resolved me to do what a blogger should do at all times: to speak truth to power, no matter how many product marketing managers, marketing communications consultants or brand ambassadors I upset. That is why without Katie Price, we wouldn’t have this fragile and precious thing we call Talk Normal.

We all have times when we talk crap to avoid saying what we know to be true. My Christmas wish for you is that, the next time you are faced with what philosophers call the Jordan Boob Dilemma (JBD) in your work, don’t mumble about challenges and facilitation and win-win scenarios while thinking “that is a truly terrible idea”. Honour Talknormalism by saying what you think, as I should have done all those years ago.

Happy Gifting Season.


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